Written by Lauryn Smith
In addition to being F. Scott Fitzgerald’s muse, Zelda Fitzgerald has inspired writers like Therese Anne Fowler ("Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald"), Sally Cline ("Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise"), R. Clifton Spargo ("Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald"), Nancy Milford ("Zelda: A Biography") and Erika Robuck, author of "Call Me Zelda."
Why did Zelda garner nearly as much posthumous acclaim as her literary husband? There are a number of reasons, both glamorous and not-so-glamorous, some of which are uncovered in Robuck’s novel. Robuck's fiction, based on Zelda’s real life, demonstrates how Zelda was artistic in her own right (she was a ballerina, painter and writer), and how at times her mental well-being suffered from the effects of an overtly opulent lifestyle and a struggling marriage.
"Call Me Zelda" focuses on the story of the fictionalized Anna Howard, a psychiatric nurse at the Phipps Clinic in Maryland who cares for and becomes enraptured by Zelda. In the book, Robuck illustrates Anna’s past and present and how Anna attempts to reconcile the two through her blossoming friendship with Zelda.
Written by Lauryn Smith
What do you get when you mix solitude, murder and a touch of love affair? Charles Frazier’s 2011 fiction novel, "Nightwoods."
"Nightwoods" follows the story of Luce, a woman who finds herself the caretaker of her murdered sister’s twin children. Living in an isolated, rural area of 1960s North Carolina, Luce is accustomed to seclusion, living apart from society. In fact, she enjoys it.
In "Nightwoods," Frazier, who is also the author of "Thirteen Moons" and "Cold Mountain," portrays how Luce learns to help the twins overcome their troubling past while at the same time protect them, particularly from their deceased mother’s husband named Bud, a man (not the twins’ biological father) with insidious intentions.
Frazier’s protagonist has a troubling past of her own, which allows her to relate to the taciturn children. Though Frazier seems to attempt to demonstrate through Luce’s character how a person’s past can affect his or her present, Luce ends up coming across as static—always strong, always contemplative, always passionate. The children, on the other hand, are clearly dynamic. Normally closed off, introverted and outwardly “feebleminded,” they exhibit courage and resourcefulness when conditions call for such traits. It could be argued that Frazier should have hinted more toward how Luce’s history affects her adult self. Perhaps Frazier left this aspect open-ended to prompt readers to actively conceptualize on their own.
Written by Lauryn Smith
In her historical fiction novel "The Museum of Extraordinary Things," Alice Hoffman invites readers to dive into dueling worlds, one mystical and breathtaking, the other dark and seedy.
Set in 1911 New York, Hoffman illustrates the time by interweaving the stories of Coralie, a young woman who assists her father’s museum of “natural” wonders, and Eddie, a young man who struggles with his unfortunate past but finds solace in his work as a photographer and life in the Manhattan wilderness. Their paths cross when Eddie accepts a job reminiscent of those he used to accept from shady characters in his youth. This time the job is seeking the missing daughter of an acquaintance of his estranged father. In addition to providing readers a true page-turner of a book, Hoffman expertly introduces readers to actual historical events, in this case the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village and the fire at Coney Island’s amusement park, Dreamland.
Hoffman, the author of more than 30 novels, seems to want to exemplify the psychological impacts of social and economic inequalities. Coralie feels trapped by the wishes of her father, who disallows her from showing her true self, going so far as to require her to glove her deformed hands, while simultaneously forcing her to train as a water-loving creature to be displayed at the museum. Eddie carries with him the watch of the young son of a wealthy factory owner, which he stole when he was a child working alongside his garment-worker father, a token that seems to represent his distaste with societal disparities. His unease is perpetuated by his craft, in which he uses his camera to capture both beautiful and sordid images. Likewise, Coralie learns that the museum of wonders that once seemed magical is actually a house of hidden horrors. How is it that the world can supply such extremes, and in such proximity?
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